[The following passage from the Chambers Gazetteer of Scotland appears on page 469-73. — George P. Landow.]

Glasgow is the seat of the Synod of Glasgow and Ayr, in which are included the presbyteries of Glasgow, Lanark, Hamilton, Ayr, Irvine, Dumbarton, and Paisley; the Presbytery of Glasgow comprehending twenty-two parishes. From the Reformation till the year 1588, the town had only one minister who preached in the cathedral. From that period the number of clergy has gradually been increased, and the city and its environs are now divided into twelve distinct parishes, each of which has only one minister; the town having avoided the expensive and useless system of collegiate charges. Those parishes within the royalty are — the Inner High Church; the Outer High Church; the College; the Tron; St. David's; St. George's; St. Andrew's; St, Enoch's; St. John's; and St. James', which was only constituted in 1820; being ten in number, and those without are, the Barony and the Gorbals. The Barony parish was erected in 1595, by detaching from the old parish of Glasgow, the country or landward part. It is now a very populous parish, from its containing a great part of tie suburbs of the city, extending around the east, north and west sides; but it is proposed to divide it into several distinct parochial districts.

The Gorbals parish, which includes the suburb on the south side of the river, was originally a part of the parish of Govan, and in 1771 was erected into a separate parochial division in consideration of its population. At one period the lands of Gorbals, lying on the south side of the Clyde, were under the superiority of the archbishop of Glasgow, who, in 1571, granted them to George Elphinston, a merchant, from whom they descended to his son Sir George Elphinston of Blythswood, who obtained the privileges of a burgh of barony for his property. In 1647 the magistrates of Glasgow purchased the lands and barony, partly for Hutchison's Hospital, and partly for the Trades' House. The village of Brig-end at this time stood on the lands of Gorbals, at the end of the bridge of Glasgow. Latterly, however, the name of Brig-end was dropped, and the title of "the Gorbals" was given to the suburb, which gradually grew in size and extended over a large territory. In 1732 was reared a chapel of ease, which, in 1771, was constituted the church of the new parish, then erected. The strange word Gurbals is of very difficult etymology; and the most obvious interpretation is by the British word Gorbel, signifying very far or distant, which may have been applied to something at this place during the domination of the British in Strath Clyde.

Anglican Churches

The churches of the establishment are as follows:

Cathedral and Part of the City of Glasgow from Craig Park. Drawn by D. O. Hill and engraved “on steel” by T. Clerk. Published by Thos. Ireland, 57 South Bridge Street 1838. Facing p. 463. Chambers 1838 Gazetteer of Scotland. Click on image to enlarge it.

The High Church. — Decidedly the first building deserving of particular notice is the High Church, or, as it would have been called under an episcopal establishment, the Cathedral of Glasgow. This was the institution from which Glasgow derived its existence at first, and afterwards all the importance that it possessed as a town, previous to the commencement of its commercial system. It is supposed, as already mentioned, that a religious house or cell was first planted on this spot in the sixth century by St. Mungo, who was the superintendent of a provincial body of clergy. Between this early period and the time when the church of Rome began to assert its sway over Scotland, the history of the place is obscure and uninteresting. As has been seen, David I., who is noted for his piety, founded the see as a catholic bishopric; and in 1123, the present cathedral was commenced, by John Achauis, the bishop.

This building, which was not altogether brought to its present form till the Reformation, and even then was left incomplete, is a huge oblong structure, in the Gothic style of architecture, about eleven hundred feet in circumference, and ornamented by a beautiful tower and spire springing from the centre. As it rises from that steep bank, whose dark woody recesses are supposed to have given the city its name, it is considerably taller at the east extremity than at the west, a peculiarity which we have never observed in any similar structure. An idea of the magnitude of the building may be formed from the fact that it contains 147 pillars, and is lighted by 157 windows. The parts left unfinished are the transepts or side projections. One of these has been raised a few feet from the ground, and is now used as a burial-place : it is called by the picturesque and appropriate title of the Dripping Aisle. At the south-west corner, of the edifice rises a plain tower, apparently an after-thought, as it is in a style quite unsuitable to the appearance of the body of the church, and being capped by a grotesque spire of lead, is altogether a most unfortunate point in the general outline of the building. This should certainly be removed, as it can only spoil the aspect of one of the handsomest and most interesting ecclesiastical structures in Scotland.

Around the church is an extensive cemetery, covered with fiat tombstones, and in the bottom of the ravine, on whose brink the edifice is reared, runs the Molendinar Burn, a rivulet so styled from its having driven the mill belonging to the religious of former times. A castle, for the residence of the bishop, was attached to the church from a very early age, and was several times taken and retaken in the course of the wars for the crown at the beginning of the fourteenth century. The bishop of that day, Robert Wishart by name, was a regent of the kingdom while the crown awaited the arbitration of Edward I., and afterwards distinguished himself by his exertions in the patriotic cause. He was for a long time kept prisoner by Edward in England, upon an allowance of sixpence a-day, threepence for Iris upper servant, one penny for his boy, and three halfpence for his chaplain. In 1300, Sir William Wallace seized the castle under the circumstances already mentioned. In 1381, Bishop Wardlaw was honoured with a cardinal's hat, which was here delivered to him by the Pope's legate. His arms are placed on the ceiling of the south aisle of the choir, under which is written in gilded Saxon letters, "Walterus Cardinalis."

The grand incident in the history of the cathedral was the elevation of the see from the episcopal to the archiepiscopal character, which took place under Bishop Blackadder in 1488. A splendid procession and ceremony, in which the Pope's Nuncio assisted, took place on this occasion. In the latter times of the archiepiscopate under the catholic system, scores of dignified ecclesiastics lived in the immediate neighbourhood of the cathedral, and must have rendered Glasgow one of the most magnificent places in Scotland at the time. At the Reformation the cathedral was disfurnished, but fortunately not otherwise injured; and thus, having been ever since preserved with some care, it happens to be the only cathedral, besides that of Kirkwall, in Orkney, and almost the only Gothic church of a considerable size, in the kingdom, which has survived to the present times. For some time after the Reformation, the choir or eastern division of the building was used as a place of protestant worship for the town. It is recorded by Spottiswood, who was the first protestant archbishop, (succeeding Beaton in 1603,) that in 1579 the people were very nearly on the point of destroying the whole edifice, but that the crafts, or incorporated tradesmen, had the courage and good sense to oppose the movement, and consequently saved the structure.

The great General Assembly of 1638, which deposed the whole episcopal system erected by James I. and Charles I., and gave the first impulse to the civil war, sat in Glasgow cathedral; an historical event sufficient to give interest to the building, though it had none from any other source. The great increase of religious culture which took place at this time, seems to have induced the necessity of fitting up the western part of the structure as an additional church. It was called the Outer High Church, to distinguish it from the Inner; and these titles yet remain. Previously to this period, in 1595, a separate parish, embracing a range of the neighbouring country, had been erected in Glasgow, and styled the Barony Parish; and a place of worship was fitted up for it in a crypt underneath the Inner Church, where the declining ground leaves a lower part of the building exposed to the open air. Perhaps this is the most remarkable feature in the whole cathedral. It consists of a dense colonnade of short thick pillars supporting low arches; and as the place, since 1798, has been used exclusively as a cemetery, the floor is composed of ordinary earth. In a recess to the east lies a recumbent bishop in stone, supposed to be an effigy of St. Mungo, who, it is believed, was buried here. The stranger who seeks his way through this forest of columns can scarcely conceive how it could be pervaded by the voice of a preacher, especially as the pillars, which are only eighteen feet high, were farther encumbered by heavy wooden galleries. Pennant says the place could only, in his apprehension, be fit for the singing of the "De Profundis Clamavi." The arches are beautifully and ingeniously groined; and the whole is a great architectural curiosity. The only thing which we have seen resembling it, is the crypt under St. Peter's-in-the-East at Oxford, supposed to be of the eleventh century; an era nearly corresponding with that of the cathedral. The Inner High Church is fitted up in a very handsome style, and may be considered as one of the finest specimens of a Gothic church applied to Presbyterian worship in Scotland. The eastern window is filled with stained glass. It is now under contemplation to renovate a central part of the structure, which has long been disused, government contributing the funds necessary for the repair of the walls. The castle or episcopal palace was removed in 1791, to make way for the Royal Infirmary, which now occupies the spot.

Other Churches

College, or Blackfriars Church. This edifice which is situated on the east side of the High Street, a little below the College, was erected in 1699, on the site of an old Gothic pile, termed the Church of Blackfriars, and is a plain building partaking of the Gothic. Being attached to the university at the Reformation, at a subsequent period it was made over to the community by the professors, under certain reservations.

The Tron, or Lakjh Church, situated on the south side of the Trotigate, a little east of King Street, was founded and endowed by the community in 1484, and dedicated to the Virgin. After the Reformation, its altars being removed, it was adapted as a place for reformed worship in 1592. In 1792, it was destroyed by fire, and in 1794 was rebuilt as a plain edifice. An old steeple remains projecting into the street, in which it presents a striking feature.

The North West, or Ramshorn Church, now more elegantly styled St. David's, situated in Canon Street, was originally erected in 1720, and remodelled in 1824, in an elegant style, after a design by Messrs. Rickman and Hutchin of Birmingham. Underneath this edifice is a range of burial vaults, which were sold for £.4000, and defrayed a considerable part of the expense of the building.

St. Andrew's Church, situated in the centre of St. Andrew's Square, finished in 1756, and nearly a copy of St. Martin's-in-the-Fields, Westminster, is allowed to be as complete a specimen of the composite order of architecture as is to be found in Scotland. On the west front is a grand portico, with a lofty spire, the form and properties of which are not in unison with the church.

St. Enoch's Church, situated on the south side of a small square, called St. Enoch's Square, fronting Buchanan Street, built in 1780-1, and rebuilt, except the spire, in 1829, from designs by Mr. Hamilton. It is esteemed exceedingly beautiful.

The Wynd Church was originally erected by a party of Presbyterians during the time of Episcopacy in 1687, but being in latter times found inadequate in point of accommodation, the congregation, in 1807, was translated to St. George's Church, erected on the west side of Buchanan Street, fronting George Street. This is considered one of the finest churches in Glasgow. Great attention has been paid to the rearing of the spire, which in the variety, as well as the proportion of its parts, is uncommonly beautiful.

St. John's Church, situated in the eastern district of the city, an elegant building, with a Gothic front and a spire. The other places of worship may be noticed as follows : —

The New Barony Church, built in 1798, to accommodate the congregation which till then sat in the crypt of the cathedral, is situated near that ancient place of worship. The architecture is a clumsy mixture of the Grecian and Gothic styles.

The Gorbals Church, situated in Carlton Place, on the south side of the river. The centre of this structure projects with insulated columns, and terminates in a well-proportioned spire, 174 feet in height. The effect from the Clyde is pleasing.

Chapel of Ease — In Glasgow and its suburbs, within the bounds of the twelve parishes, there are nine chapels of Ease, four of which are in the Barony parish, and in three of which flie service is one half of the day in Gaelic.

In the whole twenty-one places of public worship thus connected with the establishment, there are 24,890 sittings, which is accommodation for only about an eighth part of the inhabitants, the remainder being either infants or dissenters, or else such persons as are not in the habit of frequenting places of worship. The total amount of stipend for the clergy of these churches and chapels is £6270. The stipend of each of the nine city clergy is £425. The stipends of the ministers of the Inner High Church and Barony arise from the teinds, the former having twenty- five, the latter twenty-three chalders, which, with the produce of glebe feus, averages £500 a-year. The town council has the curatory of the churches and chapels with the letting of the seats, and it is understood that the sums they thus levy liquidate the amount of stipends, &c.

There are no extra assessments for the church. In comparison with the vile system pursued in Edinburgh of assessing the inhabitants in six percent, on their rental for the clergy, yet charging seat-rents at the same time, Glasgow appears to be every way better managed. The average rent of each seat in the foregoing places of worship necessary to pay the ministers' stipends is 6s. 7d. and a fraction, while in Edinburgh it is 16s. 2d. and a fraction, independent of the assessment, to the extent of, in most cases, about L.2 on householders in the middling ranks. The citizens of Glasgow have thus much reason for gratulation on the lightness of their ecclesiastical burdens. The number of dissenting places of worship is very considerable in Glasgow, being as follows:

Episcopal Chapels. — There are three places of public worship of this nature, all now belonging to the Scottish episcopal communion one is situated to the north of the Green, and immediately behind St. Andrew Square, erected in 1751, by subscription, the interior of which is fitted up with great taste. Of the other two, one is devoted to the performance of the services in Gaelic, and is partly sustained by the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge.

Roman Catholic Chapel. — By the influx of Irish into Glasgow, there are now many more persons belonging to the Romish persuasion in the city than there were before the Reformation, when all were Roman catholics together. A large and commodious chapel for this body was built in 1816, on the line of street fronting the Clyde, it is of elegant florid architecture, with one end exposed to the thoroughfare. It was reared principally by weekly contributions from persons of the Roman catholic communion, at an expense of L. 13,000, and can accommodate 2200 persons. The design of the building is by Mr. James Gillespie. The altar is at the north end opposite the door; above the entrance is a fine large organ.

Secession Churches, etc., — To this large and respectable body of the United Secession Church, there belong eight meeting houses; to the Associate Synod three meeting houses; and to the sect of Cameronians one meeting house. To the Synod of Relief there pertain eight meeting-houses, three to the Congregational Union, in one of which the service is conducted in Gaelic, three to Methodists, and one to Unitarians. Besides these different classes of Christians, there are a variety of minute sects whose devotions are conducted by avowed laymen, or who have no clergymen of any kind; — of these there is one congregation of old Independents; one of Glassites; two of Bereans; two of Universalists, one of Old Light Antiburghers; one of Particular Independents, and one of Unitarian Baptists. Including churches, chapels, and meeting houses of every description, the whole contain, as nearly as we can ascertain, 60,000 sittings, which demonstrates that the established church has only two-fifths of the professing Christians in the town and vicinity. By referring to the list of places of worship in Edinburgh, it will be remarked that there is much difference in the quality of the dissent from the establishment, and it will easily be supposed from such an examination that the religious feelings of the citizens of the metropolis of the west are of a more fervid and national character than in Edinburgh.

The fast days of the kirk are the Thursdays before the second Tuesday of April and the first Sunday of November.


Chambers, Robert. The Gazetterr of Scotland. Glasgow: Blackie and Son, 1838. Internet Archive online version digitized with funding from National Library of Scotland. Web. 30 September 2018.

Last modified 30 September 2018